By Tom Mcloughlin, Founder, SEO Travel
There’s been a significant increase in interest in sustainable travel in the past few years. As protecting our planet becomes an increasing priority, many travel brands have adapted their offering accordingly to offer their customers travel experiences that are more responsible and eco-friendly.
But as well as making sustainable changes to your brand’s product or service, you should also consider how you can promote sustainability in other ways, such as through your marketing, brand values and how your business is run. In this article, we explore how you can champion sustainability through your travel brand and give actionable advice to help improve your approach.
What is Sustainable Marketing?
Sustainable marketing is defined as the process of promoting and advertising a brand in a way that preserves both natural and human resources. It’s a mindful approach that endeavours to use sustainable practices and champion sustainability as a brand’s core value, leading by example and making an effort to advertise without wasting resources.
In the travel industry, sustainability is a huge topic that more and more brands are working to support and promote. It’s impossible to escape the fact that we are facing a global climate crisis, and the travel industry definitely contributes to this.
Sustainability in marketing is just one of the ways that travel brands can support the sustainability movement and influence their customers to do the same. It not only involves sharing messages that encourage sustainable practices, but also adapting your overall approach to marketing and even your service offering so that sustainability is considered at every stage.
Why is Sustainability in Marketing Important?
Demonstrating your commitment to sustainability through marketing is important because it shows your customers that your brand actually cares about environmental issues and wants to minimise the impact that it has on the planet. Instead of just sharing empty messages about responsible travel, ensuring that your marketing approach is sustainable puts your money where your mouth is and makes a tangible difference.
Sustainable marketing campaigns are also important for brands because they can help you to grow your audience. Plenty of consumers nowadays are genuinely really concerned about the climate crisis and want to minimise their personal impact by supporting sustainable brands, and having a brand that actively promotes sustainability will help you attract more customers.
A straightforward but worthwhile benefit of sustainable marketing ideas is that they are good for the planet. We all have a responsibility to live more sustainably, and helping your brand to do this is a step in the right direction.
Sustainable marketing practices in the travel industry can also help to set a precedent that more brands feel obligated to follow suit. If you’re one of the first in your industry sector to implement a fully sustainable marketing strategy, you’ll be seen as a thought leader and hopefully influence others to follow your lead.
Finally, embodying sustainability through your brand promotion can lead to all employees feeling like their work is more meaningful. Knowing that your actions are making a positive difference increases enjoyment and engagement, which in turn can improve your reputation as an employer, increase employee retention and improve productivity at work.
8 Ways to Promote Sustainability Through Travel Marketing
There are plenty of ways that you can use your travel marketing strategy to promote sustainability. Here are eight actionable suggestions to consider adding to your approach.
Create Evergreen Sustainability Content
Responding to trends and commenting on current affairs can help to establish your travel brand as a company committed to sustainability, but you also want to ensure that you’re promoting this message outside of these situational responses. Evergreen content is content that is relevant and useful to your audience no matter when they’re engaging with it, consistently bringing traffic to your website or social media account and ensuring that your sustainability content isn’t seen as just hopping on a trend.
Examples of evergreen sustainability content include sustainable travel guides, background on your brand’s sustainability efforts, interviews with leaders or influencers working in sustainable travel, and content offering responsible travel advice or suggestions for the locations your brand targets.
Having evergreen content is a great piece of general marketing advice, but it benefits a sustainable marketing approach as well because it demonstrates a long-term commitment to the cause.
Promote Under-Visited Areas
One of the key reasons that the travel industry is failing to support sustainability is the continued promotion of destinations that have been damaged by overtourism. There are numerous different examples of popular locations that have had their resources decimated by large numbers of tourists or have lost all authentic culture because local people cannot afford to live there anymore.
Travel brands committed to sustainable marketing should avoid promoting trips and holidays to destinations that have been impacted by overtourism, or are showing signs that they may be facing the consequences of it shortly. Instead, they should adapt their offering to ensure they are promoting under-visited areas and travel experiences that have a minimal impact on the location.
You can do this through your marketing strategy by ideating ways to advertise locations that might not have the same reputation as popular holiday destinations. Some of your customers might be motivated by the idea that they’re visiting an ‘undiscovered’ part of the world, whilst others might be more inclined to book if they see that they can enjoy traditional holiday activities and attractions in a new town or city.
A huge part of sustainable travel marketing is ensuring that your business isn’t contributing to the decline of certain countries and cultures. This may mean you have to rethink your offering or face a reduction in sales whilst you adapt your approach, but the benefits of promoting more sustainable destinations are definitely worth it.
Support Local Businesses
Speaking of overtourism, one way that an influx of travel activity in a location can damage the area is that local businesses are outnumbered by brands that use large companies as suppliers and leave them with a dwindling number of customers. For example, if a beach town is suddenly flooded with new developments, restaurants and hotels might source food from elsewhere to cut costs, leaving local suppliers without any business.
A simple change that you can make to your business strategy is to review your current offering and see whether you can use local businesses to provide the same kinds of experience. Food from local farmers or suppliers is an obvious one, but what about employing local tour guides or offering your guests activities managed by local companies instead of global brands?
Your efforts shouldn’t stop there however. You can also create content that encourages your customers to visit local businesses during their trip to help support the local community and economy. Create a guide with hand-picked recommendations for shops, restaurants and activity providers and promote this in your marketing material, as well as giving every guest the information when they make a booking.
Donate to Sustainability Charities
There’s a lot that travel brands can do with their marketing approach to support sustainability, but this effort can only go so far. If you want to commit to making a real difference, consider pledging a percentage of your profits to a charity that does sustainability work so that you’re actively supporting an organisation that’s directly tackling the issue.
We appreciate that this option won’t be possible for all brands, but you could always start by making a one-off donation and pledge to start sharing your products when you reach a specific amount of revenue.
You can also create more sustainable marketing content through this approach by encouraging your customers to also support your chosen charity. There’s potential for partnerships here, but at the very least it’s another way of demonstrating your commitment to being a sustainable travel brand.
Use Sustainable Suppliers
We’ve talked about sustainable options in the location of your brand’s offering, but what about the way that the company itself is run?
Are you and your colleagues using bikes or public transport to get to and from work, or is everyone driving a car? Who is your office energy supplier, and does that energy come from renewable sources? Is your office equipment purchased from a sustainable supplier? Do you educate and support employees so that they can make sustainable choices outside of work?
This is an area where many travel brands fall short when it comes to sustainability in the workplace. Ensuring that you’re practising what you preach is an essential element of fully committing to sustainable practices, and supporting suppliers with similar values to help with the everyday running of your business is a great way to do this.
Partner with Sustainable Brands
In a similar vein, you can promote sustainability through your travel brand by setting up partnerships with other brands that have similar values. For example, you might not be able to provide your customers with sustainable transport options as part of your offering, but you could partner with a company that offers this.
Partnerships can work in a variety of ways; you might just share links to relevant brands with your customers, you might offer discount codes to each other’s customers, or you might collaborate on marketing content and offer packages that include both of your products or services. They’re a great way to encourage your customers to travel more sustainably and also to help your brand reach a wider audience.
Encourage Customers to Travel Sustainably
You can encourage your customers to travel more sustainably through partnership deals, but you can also use your marketing strategy to share a lot of content offering sustainable travel tips and suggestions. This is another great way to embody your brand values and influence others, and helps to spread a wider message about sustainability that isn’t directly tied up in your offering.
This content might involve travel guides, blog posts, videos, social media posts, or even audio content like podcast episodes. You might also consider working with sustainability influencers to share advice with your audience, which has the added benefit that it will help your brand reach a wider audience.
Practice What You Preach
Our final piece of advice for promoting sustainability in marketing your travel brand is to practise what you preach. Leading by example is one of the best ways to make an impact, and your brand could face a lot of backlash if you’re found to be preaching about sustainability but not actually doing much to support it.
You can follow all of the advice we have shared above to ensure that you’re walking to walk as well as talking the talk about sustainability and travel. Remember that adopting a sustainable approach might come with its challenges and setbacks initially, but the effort that you put in has a multitude of benefits, and will hopefully be a significant step in the right direction for the whole travel industry.
Many of the ways to promote sustainability through marketing involve taking an existing marketing approach and just adapting their purpose, so if you already have a strategy in place then many of the above suggestions shouldn’t be too difficult to implement. Travel is an industry where plenty of brands are already making an effort to be more environmentally considerate and responsible, so there are plenty of examples out there in the industry that you can take inspiration from.
If you’re looking for advice on adapting or adding to your marketing strategy, get in touch with SEO Travel for a chat and to find out more about the range of marketing services that we offer. We’re a travel marketing agency that donates 100% of our profits to selected charities, so can also offer advice on using your brand as a vehicle for social change.